The University of Idaho Department of Theatre Arts will be presenting “The Last Mother in the House of Chavis” Wednesday through Sunday, a play that challenges stigma faced by the gay and drag queen communities by accentuating themes of self-forgiveness and acceptance.
“The Last Mother in The House of Chavis” was written by Master of Fine Arts (MFA) student Robert Macke and directed by Lindsay Mammone, MFA student in directing. This will be Mammone’s second MFA after earning an MFA in studio art in 2017.
“We as a society are still misinformed and confused about gender identity and about male and female roles — what it means to be masculine and what it means to be feminine,” Mammone said. “We have attached ourselves to checking these boxes and that’s not who we are as a human race at all, we are so much more complex.”
The story revolves around Vincent, a drag queen who joins a reality television show, going by the stage name Anne Pierre. After a fight with his father Vernon that put Vincent in the hospital, he left home and has not talked to his father in eight years.
Mammone said Vincent does not appear in the play. Instead, the audience sees Vernon progressively coming to terms and accepting his estranged son’s life choices with the help of Paulanne, Vernon’s sister-in-law and Michelle, a television producer from Los Angeles.
The play opens with Michelle visiting the homes of Vernon and Paulanne to interview family members of contestants on the reality television show Michelle works for. Mammone said throughout the play, Michelle makes Vernon watch all the episodes of the show so he can understand his son better.
Mammone described Vernon as old fashioned in how he views gender roles and is ignorant and scared of what he doesn’t understand. Conversely, Paulanne, who is accepting of Vincent, is warm, committed, loyal and protective of her family.
Katy Sokol, a new transfer student at UI, plays the role of TV producer Michelle. Sokol described her character as professional and skilled at manipulating people to get what she wants.
Initially, Michelle shows up at Vernon’s doorstep for work, but eventually becomes personally invested in bridging the gap between Vernon and Vincent, Sokol said.
This will be Sokol’s first production at UI. Sokol said she is honored and humbled to be able to work on this production and work with people of a different caliber.
“I’m very excited to be the one who puts the father in his place. I get so fired up about people who see homosexuality in such a skewed light and who don’t accept it and who treat people differently or even violently,” Sokol said.
Macke, the show’s playwright, is a student in UI’s distant and extended program who will fly in to watch the production.
Macke said the idea for this play came to him while watching reality television show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” where a contestant’s background is similar to that of Vincent. Macke said he wanted to further explore that dynamic between a drag queen and his father, which led him to write the play.
Today, the LGBTQA community is gaining more acceptance from the public, and public acceptance adds societal pressure for families of the LGBTQA community who are estranged to reconnect, Macke said.
“It’s so important to showcase this story to really talk about the importance of what a family is and what a support system is, so that you walk away and say ‘yeah, I’ve made some mistakes, do you forgive me? I still want to be family,’” Mammone said.
“The Last Mother in The House of Chavis” opened Wednesday at the Forge Theatre and will run daily through the weekend, with a runtime of about 70 minutes.
“There is still a lot of resistance against (the LGBTQA community), there is a lot of violence that happen to people like that, hate crimes do exist, equality isn’t really equal yet, there’s still many prejudices out there within families, within communities,” Sokol said. “These are real-life issues that sometimes can be devastating and I’m hoping the show makes them more accepting and makes them reverse their ways of thoughts and prejudices and the way they view the gay community.”
May Ng can be reached at email@example.com
“The Last Mother in the House of Chavis”
Jan. 31, Feb. 1, 2, 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 3, 4 at 2 p.m.
Forge Theatre, 404 Sweet Ave.
Free for UI students
General public $10